Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Indie Pub Part 4

We're continuing in our look at Independent Publishing. So far we've covered the changes in the publishing world, how to format your book for print and for e-publishing, and how to make an eye-catching cover. Today we're going to look at where to sell what you write.

Where to Sell What You Write

If you were publishing through the traditional, legacy publishers, this would be less of an issue. The advantage that the legacy publishers have typically had over the independent author is the issue of distribution and marketing. That being said, many legacy and boutique publishers, facing rising costs, have trimmed down on precisely these two areas, leaving many of the marketing and even distribution challenges to the authors themselves. Thus, they have effectively shot themselves in their collective feet.
Along with the internet revolution has come the ability to sell online from anywhere in the world to virtually anywhere in the world, and as reader’s buying habits have shifted away from brick and mortar stores to online, this has opened up opportunities for the independent author.

Electronic Retailers

So what are these electronic retailers? There are many. First among them is Amazon is the single largest e-retailer in the world, selling anything and everything—though their primary emphasis is books.
The second largest e-book seller is, surprisingly, Apple. They are Amazon’s chief competition, capitalizing on the strength of their iTunes store to sell similar content to users of Apple’s iPad and iPhone. Following that is Barnes and Noble. Like Amazon they also have their own e-Reader and electronic content. But they differ in being a primarily brick and mortar outfit. Their online presence has a sliver of market share, barely in the double digits.
After that, we have the smaller fish: Sony, who sells e-books for its various e-readers, Kobo books, trying to find their place, Diesel, making negligible headway, and Smashwords.
Smashwords is different because, though they do sell directly from their site, their primary business model is in distribution to as many e-selling markets as possible. This makes them a player, even though they don’t sell that many books themselves. Smashwords can convert a single Word Document into multiple e-reader formats at the click of a mouse, and distributes to numerous sellers as well. Thus, they play a pivotal role for the author.
In addition to these primary sellers, we also have numerous foreign markets that are just now opening up to the American author. Amazon distributes to Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, India, and now Japan as well.

Physical Retail Options

Selling online will be the primary way an independent author distributes his or her books. But it isn’t the only way. Secondary to it is selling via brick and mortar stores. There are two types of brick and mortar stores where you might be able to sell your book. Local, privately owned stores (including, but not limited to, bookstores), and retail chains (bookstores, department stores, grocery stores, pharmacies and other places where books are sold).
When it comes to selling in these places, you will need to approach the store owner or manager with a professional product and agree to sell your book, typically on consignment, whereby the seller takes anywhere from twenty to fifty percent of the cover price. Larger box stores are very hard to break into. You have to be able to demonstrate a pattern of sales before you’ll be able to entice many retail chains into taking on your material. Some retail chains will stock a local author, so that can get you a foot in the door.
Be prepared to come to the store with several books available, a sell sheet that explains your book and marketing strategy, with contact information so they can get back in touch with you. The more professionally you present yourself, the better chance you have. Business cards and so forth should be professionally printed, rather than produced at home on an inkjet printer.
You can also distribute your book to local libraries by donating a copy or two, and by playing up on the fact that you’re a local author. Many libraries have “author days,” where you can sell your book, do sample readings, and meet prospective readers.

Selling Your Own Material

And we should not overlook the sales you can generate on your own. You can sell your materials through your own website, often by providing direct links to either Amazon or to your own sale page (I prefer to use an image of the book’s cover as the primary link on my website).
If you are unfamiliar with HTML, I recommend starting with a blog (which you should have anyway). Blog pages often let you sell through third party widgets that you can insert into posts or in sidebars. The two most common blog platforms are Blogger, owned by Google (also redirects from Blogspot), and Wordpress. I’ve used both, though I’m currently using the Wordpress platform.
Both let you design a fully functional blog/website that can either be hosted on their domains, or on a third party site. The platforms come with templates you can install that make designing your site a breeze, and the blog platform has the advantage of always giving you a ready excuse and means of updating your content, thus getting readers to come back again and again.
In addition to selling online, you can also sell through craft fairs, community yard sales, public markets, as well as various classes and seminars (this is especially helpful if your book is either non-fiction, or if it touches on a non-fiction subject of which you are knowledgeable.). You might have to pay a small, upfront fee for the table space. It could be anywhere from twenty to five hundred dollars. I wouldn’t pay more than a hundred bucks for a table space, and you have to factor that cost into what you hope to sell so that you don’t lose money in the process.


Besides figuring out where to sell what you write, we also have the challenge of figuring out the selling price. Cost is not the only consideration in setting a price, believe it or not (though it is significant).
When it comes to e-books, the cost per book is effectively nil. Once the book itself is produced, it can be reproduced endlessly with no additional cost to you or the distributer besides the pennies required to keep the file intact and available on its servers.
This does not mean, however, that e-books should cost nothing. You must factor into the cost the value the product has for you as an author. After all, your time and talent went into producing the work in the first place. It may have taken you months to years to produce the book, and that time is significant. The goal is to recoup the losses you incurred in terms of the time invested, and even turn a profit, over the lifetime of the book.
The price of your book also says something significant to the reader about the value they are getting for the words they are reading. You want the reader to believe they are getting something worth investing their time into, and the best way to do that is to require them to pay for it up front. Your book should be priced high enough to communicate quality, high enough to allow you to discount it for sales (and still make money at it) and yet low enough to actually sell.
In addition, Amazon has a “sweet spot,” a price range that will allow you to take advantage of a higher royalty rate. The standard royalty rate for Amazon is 35%. Books that are priced below $2.99 and above $9.99 earn the 35% rate. But books priced within this range qualify for a 70% royalty rate.
Other retailers, such as Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Diesel typically offer a 60% royalty rate. Smashwords pays 85%.
For a full length book, the sweet spot is right around $4.99, though some books sell for as much as $9.99. Believe it or not, you can actually sell more books pricing higher than lower, because people expect to pay for their books.
Free will always sell, but that doesn’t necessarily add up to readers. You can always use free as a giveaway to entice new readers or reward people for signing up for your newsletter, for leaving a review, etc.
Smashwords allows you to set coupon codes that you can give away or email to people so they can get a discount. At the present time, Amazon doesn’t have this feature (you’d have to send the mobi file to the customer directly.).
When it comes to print, you now have to factor in two additional considerations before determining the price. Printed books have costs built into them that e-books simply do not have.
The first cost is the actual printing of the book. You have to factor in the price of the paper and ink and the process used to develop the book. The printer or on-demand printer you utilize will tell you this cost at the outset.
Createspace, for example calculates its prices this way:
Calculating Our Share
Sales Channel Percentage
+ Fixed Charge
+ Per-Page Charge
= Our Share

 The Sales Channel Percentage is 40% of the list price for Amazon, 20% for Createspace, and 60% for expanded distribution (which is a package you can purchase through Createspace).
Fixed Charges are as follows:, CreateSpace eStore, and Expanded Distribution
Black and white books with 24-108 pages
$2.15 per book
Black and white books with 110-828 pages
$0.85 per book
Full-color books with 24-40 pages
$3.65 per book
Full-color books with 42-500 pages
$0.85 per book

Amazon Europe
Books printed in Great Britain
£0.70 per book
Books printed in continental Europe
€0.60 per book

And then there is the Per Page Charge:, CreateSpace eStore, and Expanded Distribution
Black and white books with 24-108 pages
Black and white books with 110-828 pages
$0.012 per page
Full-color books with 24-40 pages
Full-color books with 42-500 pages
$0.07 per page

Amazon Europe
Black and white books printed in Great Britain
£0.01 per page
Full-color books printed in Great Britain
£0.045 per page
Black and white books printed in continental Europe
€0.012 per page
Full-color books printed in continental Europe
€0.06 per page

All of this factors into the cost of the book. So for example: for a 184 page black and white book, you set your USD list price at $8.99. A customer purchases your book on and a book is printed to fulfill that order.
Sales Channel % = $3.60
Fixed Charge =      $0.85
Per Page Charge = $2.20
Your Royalty =     $2.34

The second cost, and one that is often not factored in on the front end, is the cost to actually ship the book. This cost may vary due to quantity and desired delivery date, but it is a cost your readers will incur beyond the purchase price.
With Createspace, you can purchase your book at cost and delivery, and have it shipped to you for your own sales efforts. If you factor in how much the book and shipping costs are, it will give you an idea of how much you should charge in order to make a profit and not lose money (especially if you have to then give 40% of the list price to a store for carrying the book).  

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1 comment:

  1. Great advice, Scott. Thanks for continuing to break down this information in easy to understand formats.